Hello! I am Jody Horntvedt, educator in Leadership and Civic Engagement with the University of Minnesota Extension. I’m going to share insights on engagement, the “other side of the coin” described by my colleague’s, Lisa Hinz, earlier post about our action steps evaluation efforts in our Emerging Leadership Program.
I approach engagement as a process connecting me (the instructor) with participants to understand their needs and build their capacity. The great thing is that it creates a feedback loop which helps me provide more effective training! Initially the “action items” follow-up was intended to examine engagement not evaluate, but it turns out that the two are intertwined.
Hot Tip: Develop an engagement plan. Participants will not be ready to identify action items if they have not been prepared. The educator must devote instructional time to helping participants think about their goals and the specific steps they will take to achieve these goals.
Lesson Learned: Be intentional. In the past we encouraged participants at the final session to tell us things they wanted to do with what they learned. This didn’t result in specific items and strategies to accomplish what they identified. Now we include a 2-hour training session incorporating personal reflection, planning, and group sharing. Participants complete an individual plan to detail their action steps. The action plan, Beyond the Program, includes examples (to jumpstart their thinking) and a signature (to instill ownership).
Hot Tip: Provide a purpose/place to practice. Not all “emerging leaders” are in leadership roles, so incorporating ways they can apply their new skills like recruiting new participants for the next class and marketing and/or fund raising to support the program can be a win-win situation.
Lesson Learned: Learning isn’t over when the program ends. In the past we would graduate participants and connect with them passively via alumni newsletters. Now our engagement plan actively connects with them following graduation. We send monthly postcards and follow-up emails. We connect via social media (closed Facebook group for participants) and through one-on-one contacts initiated by participants. The Qualitrics survey Lisa wrote about yesterday helps us identify post-program action which we can use to design ongoing alumni programs that continue to support these leaders.
For maximum engagement benefits, educators need to develop a relationship with participants before, during and after the formal workshop instruction. A program logic model is useful, but in the end it comes down to provide the right mix of formal training and informal coaching to keep them engaged so that educators can see results in evaluation and participants can see results in their communities.
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